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York Travel Guide

About York

Too often cities are called ‘unique’, but there are few that can be considered as truly unique as York. After all, how many rest on the foundations of both a Roman fortress and a vital Viking settlement? How many were a linchpin of both the Norman conquest and English Civil War? Ancient, attractive and enduring, York stands alone.

For several hundred years, this was England’s second city, the gateway to the north, crucially positioned between the rivers Ouse and Foss. Today, it still wears the marks of its remarkable history – with typical Yorkshire pride.

Walking the cobbled streets of the medieval-conjuring Shambles or scaling the old city walls, you can feel history at your feet, while every time someone digs up the ground, the past comes bursting to the surface.

Most visitors start with the extraordinary York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Its soaring spires gleam in the sun and imbue the city with mystery at night, brooding over the skyline.

Then there's the formidable Clifford’s Tower (started by William the Conqueror), which is reminiscent of a French castle, and the famous ‘Bars’ - medieval gatehouses that punctuate the old city walls. Finally, there are many impressive museums exploring the potency of York’s past lives.

Of course, York is also a modern city that doesn’t depend only on tourism. Straight-talking and friendly, the locals appreciate the city’s incredible past without being paralysed by it.

While exploring the shadowy medieval alleyways between streets, stopping in at old rickety pubs and quaint tea rooms, you’ll also find noisy bars and live music venues catering to the sizable student population, as well as a few bohemian cafes and little art galleries.
Meanwhile, York’s restaurant scene is dynamic and well respected, with some superb examples of British gastronomy and plenty of top-notch pub grub.

Ultimately, though, this fascinating city is dominated by its venerable architecture – York is truly one of the most beautiful places in Britain. Especially so in autumn and winter when, despite the cold, the medieval atmosphere and looming Minster make it even more mysterious and alluring than usual.

Key facts

193,300 (2007).
A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Featured Hotels


The Bar Convent

Situated in the oldest existing convent in England (established in 1686), The Bar Convent offers accommodation with a difference, in elegant surroundings and with a unique and informal ambience. This Grade I listed Georgian building was renovated in the summer of 2006.

The Churchill Hotel

All of the rooms in this hotel are individually decorated and its historic charm is guaranteed to beguile. Housed in a Georgian mansion built around 1827, the Churchill offers a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. The restaurant is very good, sourcing its ingredients locally and in accordance with the seasons.

The Grange Hotel

A Grade-II-listed Regency townhouse, The Grange exudes good taste - the attached Ivy Brasserie (which received two AA rosettes in 2006) is worth a mention too. Elegant and luxurious, the hotel also offers modern comfort and convenience, including Wi-Fi access.

Middlethorpe Hall

This country house, built in 1699, offers the optimum in lavishness: set in 20 acres of gardens and parkland, it is decorated with antiques consistent with the period of the house, yet also manages to be modern with its own health and fitness spa.

Romley House

This family-run guest house provides a friendly and efficient service at bargain prices. Rooms are homely, decorated in white and floral patterns. Romley House is also renowned for its pictorial and ceramic clown collection - a typical touch of such child-friendly accommodation. Staying here is a way of receiving some classic Yorkshire hospitality.

York International Youth Hostel

This youth hostel's good service and clean and comfortable rooms guarantee good value for money. Although located just outside the city centre, the 10- to 15-minute walk is a delightfully scenic one along the river. The hostel's bedrooms range from single rooms to dorms accommodating up to eight people.